To achieve maximum efficacy, taxonomic studies that seek to distinguish amongst species must first account for allometric shape variation within species. Two recently developed software packages (SMATR and MorphoJ) offer regression-based allometric approaches that are notable for their statistical power and ease of use and that may prove highly useful to taxonomists working with linear or geometric morphometric data. We investigate species delimitation of the slender-bodied fishes in the Leporinus cylindriformis group using these programs and demonstrate the utility of the allometric corrections that they provide. Without allometric correction, many pairs of species are difficult to distinguish on the basis of morphometrics, but once regressions are used to account for marked allometric variation within species, most of the recognized species in this group can be readily distinguished with linear or geometric morphometrics, particularly using variation in the depth of the body. Both approaches returned congruent patterns of separation amongst putative species, but the geometric approach in MorphoJ distinguished amongst four more pairs of species than did the linear approach in SMATR and appears to provide slightly more statistical power. Based on distinctive morphometrics, meristics, and coloration, a highly elongate species of Leporinus from the Suriname, Corantijn, and Coppename rivers of Suriname is described herein as a new species, Leporinus apollo sp. nov. The unique L. cylindriformis holotype from Porto de Moz, Brazil differs in morphology, meristics, and pigmentation from specimens commonly referred to that species from the main basin of the Amazon; the latter specimens may represent an additional undescribed species. The L. cylindriformis holotype itself may represent a rare species or a specimen collected at the edge of its native range. Measurements of the holotype and paratype of Leporinus niceforoi, which were collected in the Amazonian slope of Colombia, differ substantially from similarly pigmented and putatively conspecific specimens from Amazonian portions of Ecuador and Peru. Recently collected specimens from Colombia are needed to determine whether the observed morphometric variation encompassed by the current concept of L. niceforoi indicates a morphocline within a single species, suggests the presence of multiple cryptic species, or results from shrinkage of the types. In all these cases, linear or geometric morphometric data can reliably differentiate amongst species, but only after one accounts for allometric shape variation. The new SMATR and MorphoJ software packages both offer easy and effective approaches to such allometrically informed taxonomy, and may prove useful to any systematist working on taxa that change shape as they grow.
© 2011 The Linnean Society of London, Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2011, 162, 103–130.